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Kunlun Hockey Journey: Stephanie Anderson’s Blog Post #5

I am sorry I fell off keeping up to date on these blogs but I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The season got very busy and traveling takes its toll. I’m going to hit most of my memorable moments since the last time I wrote a blog.

Back when our team was based out of Beijing near the start of our CWHL league games, we had a scrimmage against the other China team, Vanke Rays. If any of you remember hearing about the NHL China Game Series you’d remember hearing that our scrimmage was used to make sure the ice was ready for an NHL game and camera crews knew how to follow the puck for the NHL game the next day. As I got all my equipment on and started walking out to the ice, I heard someone yell my name. Out of nowhere someone was hugging me and it was an old teammate I played with back in high school for the MN Thoroughbreds. What a small world, her name is Tai Stephen and she lives out there now. It was nice to see a familiar face for the first time, in a long time.

Old teammate Tai Stephen

After Beijing we flew to Vancouver where we played the UBC Canadian team and a few other games while we were there. Mostly training and getting ready for the league games, but there was one day at the rink we were training at, where something pretty cool happened! There was an event going on at the Vancouver NHL rink so the team ended up practicing at the same rink we were at. Our equipment manager, Steph, knew the Vancouver equipment manager and I asked if there was any way I could meet Thomas Vanek! Because why not, I liked him when he played for the Wild. Before our practice, Steph grabbed me and just told me “I had to come now.” I had no idea what was going on and through two sets of doors they opened and Vanek is standing right there!! Pretty cool experience I’d say.

Meeting Thomas Vanek

While we were in Vancouver I got a text from someone you might all remember! She just happened to be visiting home for the weekend and getting to see her and eat some of her moms cooking was out of this world. There is something about a home cooked meal that just strikes a cord after being away from home and not being able to cook in a kitchen of your own. Okay back to my story…IT WAS IVANA BILIC!! She was home and asked if I had free time to get together, of course I did. So I took a train to see her and her family. Couldn’t have been happier to yet again see a familiar face!

Seeing Ivana Bilic

Now I’m in Calgary and its freezing cold. Or so it seemed, coming from 60-degree weather in Vancouver. We had a two game series against the Calgary Inferno. There was one day though where we had the entire day off to explore. So five of us chose to rent a car and take a little roady 2 hours away to Lake St. Louis. Might be one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. We were there for hours just walking around. I face timed my parents so they could see what it looked like, and the first thing my mom says is “get a good picture for the living room” so here I am holding my phone at every which way angle to get a good picture for my mom. I looked like such a tourist…Hopefully one turns out!

Lake St Louis

Another Lake in Calgary

From Calgary, we headed back to Boston. Boston is our home base when we are training in the states. We had an entire weekend off from hockey and I took advantage of it…my girlfriend flew in to visit for 5 days in Boston. Little did she know, I planned a trip to New York for the two of us. Neither of us has been there. We stayed at the commons hotel which was located right by the Ground Zero Memorial site. We saw a lot of things that weekend, from Times Square to seeing Wicked on Broadway, to being at the top of the Empire State Building. We walked around Central Park one day and attempted to master the subway system, which we failed at a couple times. It was a great weekend to get away from hockey for a little bit. Always nice to refresh your mind once in awhile and get away from the chaos.

Ground Zero South Tower New York

One weekend after another I got to see such important people from back home. After Boston we flew to Montreal for a 3 game series. It was a huge weekend because they are one of the top teams and the other reason was because my mom was there!! My mom flew in to watch all 3 games and hang out with me whenever I had some free time. We made some memories and saw some pretty cool places while she was there. It was just so nice to see her in the stands because I haven’t had that since playing at Bemidji. Meant a lot she came out to watch me play, but it was bittersweet saying goodbye to her after my last game because she headed back home to Minnesota and I was flying to China the next morning. After I said goodbye, I may or may not have shed a little tear in the locker room, but she’ll never know!

Mom in Montreal

Inside Famous Church Notre-Dame Basilica

I’m now back in Shenzhen, China. This next weekend coming up was history making. There has never been a women’s professional hockey game played in China, ever. We didn’t know what the crowd would be like; we didn’t know how anything was going to go come game time. I’ll tell you this much, you can’t make any of this up. As we are on the bus going to the game, there are banners all over the place that lined the road. We couldn’t believe how much our games were being promoted. So we pull into the rink and get dropped off, instantly there is media everywhere. I’m not kidding, walking off the bus, people walking around in our locker room video taping us while we tape our sticks and put our equipment on. When we went out for on ice warm ups, there were not that many fans and we were all hoping to get a better outcome that what it seemed like. Warm-ups finish and we head to the locker room. After Coach Digit Murphy talked, a ton of people came in and started taking pictures all over the place. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years playing hockey. Now its game time! We walk out through the tunnel and it was PACKED!!! China fans came out of the woodwork for this game. None of us expected anything like this. The biggest “wow” moment during this day was right before the puck dropped. Remember when I said there has never been a women’s professional game in China before? This is the moment when that fact really hit home for me. Before the puck drops of any game, you can hear the fans cheering and getting excited for the game. The atmosphere should be through the roof and your blood is pumping. That’s how it should be right? I swear I could hear a needle drop in that arena from 30 rows up it was so quiet. I remember standing on the bench not believing how quiet it was, right as the game was about to start. When you think about it, it makes sense. It makes sense because they have never been at or seen a hockey game like this. They didn’t know it was time to cheer, or what to do.

First home weekend

Picture day

That’s all for now!! Keep an eye out in the next few days for the rest of me catching everyone up to present time!

~Steph

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